Finding one’s identity is hard growing up, especially in high school.
However, Netflix’s new coming of age film “The Half of It,” directed by Alice Wu, gives teens the complex representation they deserve by exploring themes of sexuality, friendship and racism.
Released on May 1, the almost two-hour long film follows senior Ellie Chu (Leah Louis, “Nancy Drew”) as she struggles through her last year of high school. Ellie, a typical high school “nerd,” resides in the small town of Squamish and is constantly belittled by her other “popular” schoolmates simply for being smart and a Chinese immigrant.
Her life gets turned around when one day, she is approached by school jock, Paul Munsky (Daniel Deimer, “The Man in the High Castle”) who seeks her help. Since Ellie has a reputation for writing other student’s essays for cash, Paul figures she can help him write a love letter to his crush Aster Lores (Alexxis Lemire, “Cerebrum”). After hesitantly accepting the offer, the two protagonists go through a series of ups and downs while discovering things about themselves and those around them.
Besides the occasional humor that the duo brings, Ellie and Paul’s contrasting personalities do more than just show that friendship can be formed through any circumstance. In fact, they emphasize that love is messy and not as patient as everyone perceives it to be while successfully portraying the topic of discovering one’s sexuality.
However, director Wu does not make Ellie’s sexuality define her whole character, even though it is a big part of the film. The movie intricately builds multiple layers into Ellie’s personality by focusing on her deep interest in the arts and her backstory of being a Chinese immigrant, therefore making her stand out from the many other LGBT characters seen on screen.
On top of that, the film does a good job of creating backstories for multiple characters such as Aster and Ellie’s father, Edwin Chu(Collin Chou, “The Matrix Reloaded”). By explaining the struggle of keeping up a facade and finding a job as an immigrant the film was able to make each character relatable and realistic. These hardships are something that a lot of students can understand, especially first and second generation immigrants or LGBT students.
The movie also focuses on the casual racism being experienced by a lot of students. This is shown through the racist dialogue of the group of boys yelling “Chugga Chugga Choo Choo” or subtly when other characters reference the “Chinese girl.” This successfully portrays the casual racism that minorities face in present-day which some viewers can identify with.
Furthermore, the movie production added even more to the already sublime plot. The soundtrack and different color schemes throughout the film set the tone for each scene and made all the emotional moments all the more moving. That combined with the varying angles for each shot really tied the whole movie together and created a heartwarming yet powerful film.
Overall, “The Half of It” teaches younger audiences the power of friendship and love while realistically discussing feelings and the idea of exploring and finding one’s sexuality without feeling judged. So this diverse and wholesome coming of age movie definitely deserves more love.